Pros: Bass, Treble, Soundstage & Presentation, Build Quality and Customisation
Cons: Slightly Recessed Mids and Not Neutral
Before writing this review, I would like to thank Charles for generously sending out multiple IEMs and amplifiers for us to try and review. Charles is also one of the friendliest and most responsive guys that I have met in the audio world and often responds to emails in a few minutes. This is something that I take into account when buying any product, especially one at this price. I am in no way affiliated with nor against Rhapsodio in any way so these are my own, unbiased opinions on the Rhapsodio RDB v1 IEM.
Rhapsodio is a relatively new company to the audio world and they’ve already caused quite a stir on Head-Fi with their interesting products which have been compared to much more expensive ones. For example, swimsonny thinks their $400 R^2 has been said to compete very well against the $1300 Tralucent 1plus2, even winning in some aspects. But this IEM that I will be reviewing is the more expensive model, the RDB v1 priced at $US650 not including fancy cable upgrades. It uses a TWFK driver for the midrange and treble and an 8mm dynamic driver for the bass. To my knowledge, there was another similar model, the RDB+ v1 (which has now been discontinued?) which uses a 10mm dynamic driver but I haven’t heard that one so I can’t provide any comparisons. The reviews from H20Fidelity, mrAdrian and svyr are of the previous version.
All testing was made with my HDP-R10, my Sansa Clip+, Samsung Galaxy S3, K2 amp and Shozy amp. First off, I want to make it clear that this is not very source dependant, well not as much as my UM Miracles anyway. They do not need to be amped and there is not as much difference between my Sansa Clip+ and my HDP-R10 as you would expect since the HDP-R10 costs 30x as much as my Clip+. However, a better source does help make the sound better. For example, if the sound from my HDP-R10 was 100%, the Clip+ would be 70-80%.
I don’t know what it comes with if you bought it, but I think that it comes with 3 pairs of silicone tips and a pair of foam tips along with an Otterbox (2000?) case which is waterproof and crushproof. It’s pretty much the same as a Pelican case if you’ve used one of those. My demo version also came with a large metal case with “Rhapsodio” written on it which IMO is unnecessary but a nice addition. Good, but I would have liked to see it come with some extra tips; I don’t mind the fact that there is no IEM cleaner because there is a filter that stops ear wax from going into the IEM.
Isolation, Design & Cable
Being a vented IEM, isolation is not one of its strong point. Most IEMs that I have heard do isolate much better than these. The degree of isolation is about the level of IE8(0), Sony EX1000 and some other dynamic driver IEMs which need a vent to breathe. As for the design, you can customise the colour of the body and faceplates. The faceplates can be carbon fibre black or silver and the body can be any colour I think. What is interesting is that if you look closely at the drivers of the IEM, you will see that the TWFK drivers are actually inserted into your ear full as they are at the tip of the IEM.
I’m not sure what cable it comes with if you order the most basic IEM with no upgrades, but I got a really well built brown clothed cable that Charles said was copper and silver crystals whatever that means. The braiding was very consistent and didn’t have different sized gaps. While it was quite thick, it was still very easy to use. Microphonics is worse than normal stock CIEM cables, but being a couple of times thicker, this is hardly a surprise. It was the best sounding and easiest cable to use out of the 3 cables that I received even though it was the thickest. I think that this cable is able to be purchased directly from Charles for $160. The first pic is of the old version, the second pic is the RDB v1 next to my full sized customs and the last one is the RDB 2v1 on the left and the RDB v1 on the right.
Sorry if I have bored you with all of that, but now we are finally at the meat of the review – the sound. I will be breaking this part into a few sections like in my previous reviews and as you will soon see, (spoiler alert) I really like this IEM. However, if you are looking for an analytical IEM, this is not for you.
I’m not sure if this is true, but someone mentioned that RDB stood for really dynamic bass. I really do agree with this statement since the bass is certainly more forward than one of a neutral IEM, but it doesn’t always sound like a dynamic driver. Personally, I have always been on the BA side of the balanced armature or dynamic driver debate, but I must say that this dynamic driver has the control of a BA driver, but also has the rumble of a dynamic driver when the song calls for it. The bass rumble is exceptional, but sometimes I think that it is just a tad bit too much, drowning out some micro details. Bass extension is superb and there is no bleed into the midrange. To sum up, bass on the RDB v1 is exceptional and it was certainly the first thing that hit me when I listened to them.
I must say that the mids are really a love or hate thing. They have this texture that sometimes makes vocals very enjoyable to listen to, but can also seem a bit thin on certain tracks. When I first listened to it, my first thought was that the mids were too thin like the RDB 2v1, but after using it for a while, I realised that they were not as lush as those of my Miracles, but still extremely enjoyable. It is also worth mentioning that the mids are recessed due to the bass and treble being more upfront. As a result, on a few tracks in my collection sounded a bit off. I wouldn’t sound bad, but I enjoyed those of the Miracles and AKG K3003 more. I did like the mids on some songs, but other sounded a bit odd. The Miracles are much more solid and present everything in a more polite manner and it is much harder to fault them.
I can’t decide which part of this earphone I like the best – the bass or the treble. Both sections were extremely fun for me. As I mentioned in my UM Miracle review, I would have loved to have a bit more sparkle without it going overboard and the RDB v1 almost gets it right. It is maybe 1 or 2 db off, being slightly too bright for me. There is slight sibilance but treble detail more than makes up for that. Going from the Miracles to this makes this seem bright and harsh and going from these to the Miracles makes the Miracles seem like there is a slight veil. The cymbals sound a tad harsh, but that is actually what they sound like and if you have gone to hear a band or play in one, you will know what I mean.
I have read all about the Tralucent 1plus2 and just recently found out that the original RDB+ v1 and the 1plus2 v1 used the same drivers. These are exactly what I read on the 1plus2, but maybe a bit worse. The soundstage is large for an IEM, but not huge and it a bit smaller than the UM Miracles. The RDB v1 also makes music sound like there is a stage in front of you instead of a surround feeling like the Miracles. I actually prefer the RDB v1’s presentation over the Miracles since it is more realistic.
I personally perceive accuracy as how similar it sounds to a live presentation and I’m glad to say that the RDB v1 has done exceptionally for a sub $1000 IEM. The reproduce instruments extremely well but there is quite a bit of colouration to the sound. This does make the sound more fun but it is certainly not for one who craves accuracy.
Imaging and Soundstage
As mentioned above, the soundstage is very good for an IEM, but not the best that I have heard in an IEM. I just feel like the soundstage of the Miracles and the IE8s are slightly bigger.
The imaging however, is the best that I have heard from an IEM. It is very slightly better than the Miracles because the imaging is more exact and the stage is in front of you rather than around you.
This puts every IEM that I have heard under $1000 to shame. Everything is so coherent yet you can hear each layer of the music without even trying to. With the Brainwavz B2s, a TWFK driver based IEM, the separation is miles behind this and just cannot match it in any way. On congested tracks, this really does let some instruments shine through or make some things easier to hear. However, it is not the last word in instrument separation and my UM Miracle is better in this area and the K3003 is as well, but only very slightly.
This certainly does have a lot of detail, but due to the bass, the details are sometimes a bit hard to make out and some micro details are left out altogether. This is not completely a bad thing since it is much more forgiving of badly mastered tracks than many other IEMs. For example, “Hall of Fame” is truly hard to listen to using my Miracles, but it is still very enjoyable with these.
Rhapsodio have created a world class IEM that they could have very easily priced at $800-$1200 but they have decided to price it at $650. This is not to be interpreted as low worth but is actually high value. I recommend this to anyone who likes a fun sound signature who has less than $1000 to spend and doesn’t mind the low level of isolation.
Edit: changed to 4 star because of Rhapsodio's QC problems and their unresponsiveness.